Atheist Trolls

Over the last few weeks we’ve have some atheist trolls visiting the combox. I have attempted to answer some of their questions through a series of posts, and regular readers who are more learned than I am have also added comments.

What has emerged from the discussions is how genuinely ignorant most of the atheists are about the things on which they wish to comment. I don’t mind a good debate and am happy to entertain questions and am willing to question my faith and examine the truth. However, more often than not what comes out of the discussions is an atheist throwing wild assertions around–very often accompanied by crude language, poor manners, and aggressive style and an appalling level of ignorance.

Of course I would not expect an atheist to be an expert in New Testament scholarship, medieval church history or Catholic moral theology. What I would expect is that anyone who is not knowledgable about a particular subject would have the courtesy (and the self respect) not to make wild, groundless assertions and then continue the argument by simply stating the same thing over again, but this time a little bit louder.

I am, like all people, ignorant and uninterested in many things. For example, I am not an athlete. I have a very mild interest in football. I know the basic rules and I can sit down with some friends to watch a game, but that’s about it. In fact, if truth be told, I’m not only not an athlete, but I have a bias against athletes and athletics. I sometimes feel it is all a huge waste of money, time and effort. What I don’t do however, is get on an anti-athletic soapbox. I don’t go on to sports blogs trying to show everybody what a stupid, idiotic and wasteful thing sports are. I don’t go into their world spouting arguments about how destructive sport is because so many young children are seriously injured every year or how dumb sport is because it wastes millions on what is just a game when there are starving children in the world or how athletes are all dumb mutts who get paid big money to act like a gorilla or how terrible sport is because there are gamblers and ticket touts and people making money hand over fist with outrageously huge salaries and charging exorbitant prices for crap souvenirs…blah blah blah.

All these arguments could be made, but I would be embarrassed to make them. I realize I’m ignorant and biased against sport. I also realize that millions upon millions of people love sports of all kind. They’re passionate about it. Therefore why should I be right and they be wrong? Maybe what I ought to do is be open minded and learn more about sport. I should probably take up a sport myself. I should go to more games, broaden my world, become a bigger and better person by branching out into something that is new to me. I ought to have some curiosity and learn something from someone else–especially from someone who I have an inclination not to like. That’s where real enlightenment and learning come from.

If I can’t do that at least I ought to be dignified enough to mind my own business and keep my mouth shut.

Maybe atheist trolls should do the same.

 

  • Jim

    Good points, Father.

    I think most of these atheist “trolls”, are just chubby guys, living in their parents basement, spending their days playing warcraft, eating cheesies, and looking for blogs to dump their erudite comments.

    • abb3w

      Social validation involves resisting the message by bringing to mind important others who share one’s original attitude (Festinger, 1950, 1954, 1957; Festinger, Gerard, Hymovitch, Kelley, & Raven, 1952). Source derogation involves insulting the source, dismissing his or her expertise or trustworthiness, or otherwise rejecting his or her validity (Buller, 1986; Festinger, 1957; Festinger & Maccoby, 1964; Wright, 1975). Social validation and source derogation are responses that do not require message scrutiny, although both are likely to be coded as unfavorable thoughts in the general cognitive response approach.

      – “Strategies for Resisting Persuasion”, Jacks and Cameron, (doi:10.1207/S15324834BASP2502_5)

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Did you mean for these quotes to refer to the theists or the atheist’s behaviors?

        • Oregon Catholic

          I think he is saying that “chubby guys, living in their parents basement, spending their days playing warcraft, eating cheesies, and looking for blogs to dump their erudite comments.” should be taken seriously in matters of religion.

        • abb3w

          Heh; you’re paying attention! “Yes.”

          Persuasion resistance approaches are used by all sides. Decrying the atheist commenters as fat, underemployed social parasites seems the flip side of atheists decrying the theists as stupid, narrow-minded proto-fascists — both being forms of source derogation.

          I don’t think any of the strategies in the paper (there are several others) are unique to either theists nor to atheists. I do suspect that in the US atheists and theists may tend to use them with different frequencies. I also suspect there may be other factors more directly indicating someone’s likelihood to use them than whether they are theist or atheist. However, I’ve no direct data. Still, you might find some of the literature on the RWA and SDO personality metrics illuminating… though some of the correlations may be uncomfortable.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I didn’t characterize atheists as underdeveloped couch potatoes. I think someone else in the combox did. I agree with you that such tactics from either side are silly.

          • abb3w

            You did not; I apologize if I gave the impression I thought you were the commenter who said that. I thought it was clear from the sequence of comments.

            Contrariwise, your post included material which could be classed as source derogation: to wit, of aggression, bad manners and (alleged) ignorance.

          • Samual

            abb3w you need to get off whatever drug you are taking and relax. As for most internet atheists, I can attest to the fact that they ARE indeed, as a group, what society would deem as “losers”. I was an agnostic (the token agnostic) in an atheist reading group a few years back (about 12 members) and WITHOUT fail, they were all social misfits who had either weight problems or skin problems or other weird symptoms around and about them. We were all students but I had a full time job in addition to school. NONE of them had a job but lived off their parents (which fueled their peculiar sense of entitlement no doubt). I was blind to how pathetic these guys were until I left agnosticism and became a Christian. When I look back I wonder how many of these guys are out there still living at home, in the basement. Now to same the same for theists is patently absurd. When I became a Christian, I visited several churches, catholic, protestant, orthodox. The vast majority of the people my age, and the age of the atheists school group, were bright energetic and actually had girlfriends. Some were married or planning to get married. They had LIVES. remember most internet atheists have NO LIFE to speak of (on several levels but I’ll leave the deeper ones for the theologians). Its sad but its a fact.

          • Samual

            PS correction: to say the same for theists is patently absurd..

            PPS obviously by my post I am disagreeing with Father Longenecker, my apologies but I assure you I do it with a clear conscience. I spent many months among my atheist friends and can attest firsthand to what I saw. Obviously a group of 12 does not represent all atheist everywhere, but I have not since then seen anything that dispels what I now believe about them as a group. BTW most successful (in the secular sense) nonreligious people I know are what I call ‘vague deists’ –even that little glimmer of light is enough to help them live a better (rather than) bitter life. And that is the key: most atheists I meet dedicate enormous energy to keeping “unwanted thoughts of God” at bay. Atheism is an unnatural state. It takes energy and work to maintain it.
            God bless.

  • Richard C.

    Well said.

    The teenage atheist in my family seems to get her image of Christianity from the uninformed Protestant teenagers in her school, so she has some simple-minded concepts about how she thinks we reads Scripture. In effect, she’s a fundamentalist atheist.

    • abb3w

      Old Garrison Keillor joke: “Everybody in Lake Wobegon was Lutheran. Even the atheists were Lutheran. It was the Lutheran God they didn’t believe in.”

  • Julie

    Well said, Father!

  • Peter Brown

    I think that’s a good description–and critique–not only of atheist trolls, but of trolls in general. Unhappily, trolling seems to work pretty much like vandalism; ideas like “open-minded” and “dignified” don’t appear to figure much in the trolls’ decision-making.

  • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

    Loud, ill-mannered atheists are desperately trying to drown out the sound of their own consciences. They’re desperately afraid that if they quiet down and have a reasonable discussion, they might have to face the Truth – and such a prospect is terrifying to them. They always get my pity, and my prayers.

    • Cameron

      If you honestly believe this then you really don’t understand atheism.

      • Mark

        Very true. Notice he did not refute a single argument, basically he says ‘daddy knows best, stop questioning me.’ Atheists know that you should always question most what people say not to question. Also, it is consistently shown that atheists are more knowledgeable about religion that believers.
        http://www.theweek.co.uk/politics/11183/atheists-know-more-about-religion-believers

        • abb3w

          Umm… that’s another popular press piece about a study by the Pew Forum already mentioned in the comments. So far as I’m aware, while it’s methodologically sound, it’s not been replicated; so I’m not sure how well “consistently” fits. (Even without getting into the question of how general the results are.)

        • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

          If you think I’m a “he,” that speaks very little for your own powers of observation and logic.

      • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

        This has nothing to do with atheism as a philosophy, but rather with loud, ill-mannered people who self-identify as atheists.

    • Screwtape

      Maybe you should take the good priest’s advice and STFU about things you know nothing about, particularly when it comes to what other people think. Your post makes you look like a bigot and a fool.

      • abb3w

        The priest does have some point regarding language, I’m afraid. When an approach is used too often, the novelty value wears off. Eventually, it no longer leads to fainting and clutching of pearls (and — more to the point — reflective consideration of what was said), but lets the audience dismiss the remarks with a reflexive pigeonholing of the comment as coming from “yet another rude atheist”.

        • Angela

          What I do not understand is why do people who do not share the same beliefs (at least to a certain extent) bother to go to a blog or website just to berate/belittle the others who are there? Like Father says, if I don’t share the same passion or interest in a subject, I don’t leave any comments that belittle others. If somone is not a Roman Catholic, or at least a Christian, why come to this blog and start attacking others beliefs? I don’t go to blogs or websites just to start an uproar or poke holes. If I chance upon or follow a link to a blog or site with which I disagree or have trouble with, then I simply leave. I do not show my ignorance by commenting on things about which I have limited knowledge. As for atheists that visit here, that’s great if they are seeking and searching. However, if they are here just to mock or disparage, then why? It will just show others their own intolerance that they are so quick to deny. My the way, Father, I just received your Rosary for inner healing book, Thank you for your ministry. God Bless you all.

          • abb3w

            Well, he’s talking about atheists and atheism. Several of his remarks seem based more on stereotype than accurate information. This provokes a response. Similarly, though you might be an exception, a lot of Catholics (particularly with a bit of theological knowledge) would be inclined to respond to a Protestant blog talking about how veneration of the saints makes Catholicism polytheistic in violation of the First Commandment, by explaining why that’s inaccurate.

            Yes, mockery and disparagement may be viewed simply as intolerance. However, it’s also a social signal conveying the evaluation of a thesis at an emotional level as well as intellectual one, and empirically validated as a tactic sometimes effective for inducing people to question, and consider a different idea. It seems especially effective at challenging preconceptions of authority and prestige. There’s also differences in forms of intolerance — intolerance of people, versus intolerance of ideas; and intolerance of ideas merely because they’re different than what’s currently believed, versus intolerance of ideas because they’ve been considered closely and rejected as in error.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Sometimes mockery is simply a matter of finding something funny and saying so.

      • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

        Thank you for proving my point so effectively.

        • Screwtape

          Sorry JoAnna, but you are wrong and arrogantly so.

          Almost all of my friends are non-religious. None of them are “desperate” to drown out god or “desperate” to drown out their conscience. That is the part you are arrogantly and ignorantly shooting your big, fat yap about. You are not a mind reader nor are you an atheist. So your little fantasy about atheists is just that – the product of your imagination. And I believe that was the celibate guy’s point – don’t arrogantly run your mouth about things about which you are ignorant.

          Yes, I have been incivil with you. But you only have to look at your insulting commentary and dismissive attitude to understand why. Here’s a guideline for you, dear – if the content of your post might get your teeth knocked out if you’d said it in person, you should probably find a different way to say it.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I think your advice about knocking teeth out applies to you too doesn’t it? By the way, I’m a married Catholic priest. You should check out my bio.

    • Rita

      I agree totally, they just “protest too much”.

    • HumanistJohn

      Wrong. I am not afraid at all thank you very much.

    • Douglas Fo

      Ill mannered? Now some might be, sure. So tell me, what’s the polite way to inform someone that their entire life has been centered around a delusion? A delusion that tells people the an all powerful invisible being had to sacrifice himself, to himself(but only for a long weekend), in order to avoid his own wrath again his own creations that he made in full knowledge they weren’t going to live up to his own standards.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        I think you just proved my point about atheist’s ignorance.

        • abb3w

          Not really, no. You may disagree with the conclusion that the belief is a delusion. You infer that the conclusion is based on ignorance of some argument. However, you have not indicated what particular points he is ignorant of, and what he (and others like him) might best read to correct this alleged ignorance. Nor do you actually address the inquiry as to whether there is a more polite way for person A to clearly communicate (both intellectually and emotionally) to person B that person A considers the belief of person B so lacking in warrant as to be considered delusional.

          Instead, you respond by a simple dismissal and claim of victory. It seems only proof for the previously persuaded into full agreement with you, not for those who disagree or who are yet to be persuaded.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I’m referring to the atheist troll’s lack of knowledge and unwillingness to learn when they attempt to discuss religion.

          • abb3w

            That Douglas Fo’s remarks are presented to paint Christianity in the worst possible light, I’d agree. However, I don’t see what particular points of scripture and Catholic theology they indicate “lack of knowledge” about; nor does your response illuminate them. Would you care to?

            And, if not, is the problem in the atheists’ unwillingness to learn, or your own unwillingness or incapacity to instruct?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I was referring to conversations in the comment box over the last week or so before Douglas Fro came on board.

          • abb3w

            Except the phrase “you just proved” seems a poor way to refer to conversations a week or so before the “you” in question arrived. Or did you address that particular point in one such conversation? If so, a link to the prior post would help buttress your thesis… but only in so far as to ignorance of your previous discussions in particular, rather than Catholic theology generally.

        • Doug Fo

          How? I was raised Catholic, and while there’s a lot of pretty words and talk of mystery, that still is the core message. The core message still doesn’t make sense, does not correspond to reality, and is resistant to evidence. It meets the definition of delusion.

          • Oregon Catholic

            But maybe the problem lies within you since it makes sense to lot’s of other Catholics. I don’t understand higher level math but I don’t go around dismissing it’s validity just because it doesn’t make sense to me. If I really wanted to know if it made sense or not I would invest the time to study it from people who really knew the subject. I certainly wouldn’t just sit down and open a book on quantum mechanics, read a few nonsensical parts then declare it a bunch of whack. Or hang out on math blogs or pop in to a class now and then and listen to the lecture and form my opinion that way. Without the necessary grounding in the subject and will to learn it’s unlikely to make sense.

            Being raised a Catholic (nominally or otherwise) and then becoming an atheist virtually forces you to demean and dismiss your prior faith, how else could you live with yourself? It doesn’t make your hostility to the faith true, just understandable.

          • abb3w

            The problem may be within the unbeliever’s incapacity; or it may be within the believer’s credulity.

            It’s usually not the leaving the faith that causes it to be devalued, but finding a lack of value that causes the lack of faith. Oddly, irreligion may be a success of religious socialization, where a value for truth (regardless of personal costs) is inculcated by religion, but the religion then fails to meet the standard it taught.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The core message doesn’t make sense to you, but it makes sense to billions of other people. So maybe you have the problem. Maybe you just don’t get it. That’s okay, but it is small minded to blame the thing that is greater than you for being dumb when maybe it’s you. Let’s say I don’t like classical music. It’s silly to say it is “Just a load of highbrow noise for hoity toity people” It might be that, but it might be greater than that and it is me who needs to learn something.

          • abb3w

            It’s probably a cheap shot to point out that “dumb” is a small-minded oversimplification of “delusion”, and that “liking” is a question of aesthetic truth rather than epistemological truth.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Anybody else notice how abb3w has gone from sweet rationality and let’s all try to understand each other to cheap shots in just a couple of hours? I see a common MO here…

          • abb3w

            The alternative seemed to be getting into more difficult terrain about the intelligence/atheism relationship, the problem of induction, and abstract proof systems, for discussing what degree the inference might have warrant. Given the first isn’t anywhere near as straightforward as atheists usually try and oversimplify it, that seemed too big a can of worms to try and get into.

            It probably didn’t help that I didn’t seem to be getting substantive discussion in response to taking the high road.

      • abb3w

        May I politely suggest that your preconceptions do not appear to match the empirical data from social psychology studies. I’d recommend Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s “Amazing conversions: Why some turn to faith & others abandon religion” for your reading.

      • Dan

        Perhaps you could write something along the lines of:
        “I do not want to unnecessarily offend you by this, but I believe that your system of belief is flawed, and, to be entirely honest, false. The moral and ‘spiritual’ meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection have egotistical undertones. You and your theologians have also failed to deal with the conflicts that arise from the problem of evil and the free will vs. omniscience of God paradox.” etc etc.
        It really isn’t that hard. (Though to be entirely honest, you seem to lack a general understanding of the theology surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection (that ‘”God sacrificing himself to himself to avoid his own wrath’ quip).)

        • Doug Fo

          Which word of “God sacrificing himself to himself to avoid his own wrath” does not correspond with Christian theology? I see a lot of ducking a weaving, but it still is the ugly essence of the theology.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Study the theology if you really want to know. If you just want a comment to find something to mock I’m not obliging.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The way you’ve re-stated the theory of the atonement is not totally wrong per se, but it is the reductio ad absurdam tactic: reduce things to a ridiculous minimalistic statement so you can dismiss it. This can be done with anything: to continue my football analogy I could say, “Geesh, people pay good money to watch eleven men in tight pants running around a field knocking each other senseless to chase a piece of inflated pigskin across a white line on the ground?” If someone explained football like that you’d rightly dismiss him as not a serious debater.

          • abb3w

            However, that it’s a reductio ad absurdam does not equate to being done in ignorance.

            And, in so far as you fail to provide the additional omitted nuances to increase it back from such reduction, it can potentially be effective at introducing the beginnings of doubt, as a prelude to reconsideration of warrant from premises.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            Reductio ad absurdam may be used as a rhetorical device when attempting satirical comment however, when an assertion is made without qualifiers or reference to verifiable evidence, ignorance may be assumed to exist. That ‘ignorance’ is a perjorative term is not necessarily a factor to be considered objectively because of the connotative valuations of all linguistic capabilities. Read Florsheim “Connatotive Judgements in Logical Assertions within the Assumption of Negative Capabilities” (Journal of Linguistic Analysis, v.12, p.442. cf. Coggins. 1953) That linguistic limitations within normal cognitive associations are at times misconstrued and that objective valuations of ‘terminology’ are often relativized is, of course, a conclusion that can at times be made while one would not wish to be definitive in an exclusive or a mandatory methodology. Should a negative construction be placed upon objectively valid terminology which was used by the denotator to the receiver of the communication is to be regretted but not necessarily obviated because this may be a prelude to a reconsideration of the truth claims that are being made–albeit in a dogmatic and unproductive process.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I was just going to say that but you beat me to it Fr. L.

          • abb3w

            I’m having difficulty finding that journal in Worldcat, the US Library of Congress, or any citations to it in Google Scholar. (Worldcat turns up a journal of similar title in a couple libraries, but it appears to have been started in 1975, not 1941.) I’ll can ask one of the local reference librarians about an inter-library loan; I don’t suppose you can suggest a library likely to have that year’s volume?

            I suspect it’s more likely I’m being mocked. If so, it would seem to indicate something about how honestly you’re inclined to respond to questions and other challenges to your position.

            If not, it appears to implicitly rely on a form of parsimony — which I’d find a fun can of worms to crack open.

          • DFire

            Regarding Fr. DL’s football example, if the totality of an individual’s understanding of the game could be summed up with “Geesh, people pay good money to watch 1. eleven men 2. in tight pants 3. running around a field knocking each other senseless 4. to chase a piece of inflated pigskin 5. across a white line on the ground?”, you are correct that a knowledgeable football fan would most likely consider such an individual ignorant. However, it would take very little effort to inform this individual that:
            1. 2 teams of 11 men each (for a total of 22) are on the field during game play. 2. The players also wear protective padding over most of their bodies, helmets to protect their heads, and differently colored and numbered jerseys to identify each team and player. 3. Well, you pretty much got 3 right. 4. Early footballs were made of inflated animal, including pig, bladders, but present-day footballs are inflated rubber bladders encased in leather. 5. One team (on “offense”) tries to advance the ball over the length of the field to cross their opponent’s goal line in order to score 6 points (a “touchdown”), while the opposing team (on “defense”) attempts to stop them from doing so. If the offense scores a touchdown, they have the opportunity to then score another point (the “extra point”) by kicking the ball between the upright goalpoast erected at the end of the field, while the defense, accordingly, attempts to prevent them from doing so. After a touchdown and extra point attempt, the scoring team will then kick the ball to the opposing team and the teams’ respective offensive and defensive roles will reverse.

            Now, there are plenty of particulars about football that my description does not explain (field goals, the 4-down system, punts, etc.), not to mention the myriad nuances it usually takes one years to recognize and appreciate about the game. But with a single post I have easily demonstrated and corrected the obvious errors in this person’s assessment of football, and increased his kowledge of the game substantially.

            Why is it that no one here seems willing or able to do the same regarding Doug Fo’s statement?

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I think you missed the point.

          • DFire

            And I think you are dodging.

            If you are so certain that Doug Fo is stripping away the essence of the atonement, thereby rendering it absurd and, in turn, dismissable, then you ought to be able to demonstrate how that is the case, as I did for your football analogy. If you are unwilling or unable to provide examples to support your position, that position is necessarily weakened.

          • DFire

            And I think you are dodging.

            If you are so certain that Doug Fo is stripping away the essence of the atonement in order to render it absurd and therefore dismissable, you ought to be able to provide at least a few examples to illustrate his misconceptions, much as I did with your football analogy.
            If you are unwilling or unable to provide concrete information to support your position, that position is necessarily weakened.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            As I said, I think you missed the point entirely. If you want to understand the Christian theology of the atonement go to a library and do your homework.

          • DFire

            Now it seems you are the one missing the point. You make the claim that atheists are ignorant but refuse to give even a handful of specific examples to support this claim. This is dodging. As I was able to address the obvious mistakes in your football statement, so should you be able to enlighten Doug Fo on the errors in his statement, assuming it actually does contain mistakes, of course.

            Please pardon my double post, BTW. The system was acting pretty sketchy last night.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I have already explained: My original post was about particular atheists who had visited my blog and exposed their ignorance about New Testament scholarship and the Catholic faith. I have no doubt that there are some atheists who are very knowledgeable about the New Testament and who are far from ignorant about a whole range of other disciplines. The football analogy was just that. It was never about football, but about the mistake some people make of reducing an argument to a ridiculous statement. That’s why I said you were missing the point. Have a good day!

          • abb3w

            Yes; however, you also added that you considered this particular post to be a proof of such; and you seem to have indicated that the failure to present any additional nuances indicates that it is reasonable to infer a lack of any further knowledge. However… you’ve also failed to present any additional theological nuances in your response, which would seem to justify in turn the inference that you also are ignorant of Christian theology. In contrast, DFire has given evidence that he isn’t entirely ignorant of football.

            I’d add that this sort of lack of straight answers to is apparently one factor that apparently leads those raised religiously to depart in later years from the way they were trained up. However, such evasion is almost certainly contributes less to doubt among the religious when it’s not their own inquiry that’s being evaded.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You tell me what you would like to know about the Catholic faith and I’ll try to give you an answer.

          • Oregon Catholic

            Mt. 7:6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

            You don’t really want the pearl of wisdom, you just want something to trample. If you were really searching you would get an answer.

          • abb3w

            Well, it would be most directly responsive to the present discussion to indicate what points you would you consider most basic to Catholic theology for fleshing out the crude and ridiculous characterization of “an all powerful invisible being had to sacrifice himself, to himself (but only for a long weekend), in order to avoid his own wrath again his own creations that he made in full knowledge they weren’t going to live up to his own standards. In other words: what are the most important things this leaves out?

            If you’re asking rather what I’d be most personally interested in? Dealing with the Catholic faith in terms of its theology (what Dale Cannon refers to as “Way of Intellectual Inquiry”, as opposed to Sacred Rite, Right Action, Devotion, Shamanic Mediation, or Mystic Quest), which horn of the Münchausen trilemma does the faith rest on, and with what ultimate starting premises? But that might be a bit abstruse.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            The theological concept of the atonement is rich, complex and profound. If you folks want to study it go right ahead. You’ll soon find that reducing it to an silly statement above is rather like saying, “All those pictures by Monet? They’re just a load of oil and pigment on a piece of canvas and hung on the wall, then people pay loads of money to have one. That’s dumb isn’t it?” So by all means explore this area of theology and enjoy! As for the Catholic faith, as you are curious get down your Catechism of the Catholic Church. Everything is there.

          • abb3w

            I’ll also note “If you were really searching you would get an answer” could be characterized from an atheist vantage as the sort of poor manners or appalling ignorance that Father Longenecker’s original post complained about.

            It seems bad manners, in how it terribly belittles the irreligious who made a genuine and devoted search to the utmost of their ability, and were heartbroken to find that the best answer seemed to be “God’s not there”. Anecdotally, I’ve heard one such deconvert compare such reactions from Christians to the “blame the victim” response to rape.

            It seems appalling ignorance, given that a real search considering both the possibility of confirmation and of disconfirmation (rather than a mere search only to bolster one’s original belief) is often the main underpinning identified for why those raised to be religious become irreligious in the first place. Or is it only “really searching” if you don’t look at the possibility you might be wrong?

          • Oregon Catholic

            If I thought you were genuine you would get a genuine response. I see no reason to think that from your postings.

            If you have genuinely searched and are genuinely heartbroken then I will offer you a bit of advice. You will have a very hard time finding God amidst all the intellectual clutter you seem to have your head filled with. Humility will also help you find God – pride seriously hinders.

          • Oregon Catholic

            I should clarify. Theologically speaking following my advice will make it easier for God to find you and for you to hear Him.

            1 Kings 19:11-13
            Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD;* the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.*
            When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. A voice said to him, Why are you here, Elijah?

          • abb3w

            You appear to misunderstand. While I searched, I wasn’t one of the ones who was particularly heartbroken at the answer of “nope”. My personal circle of acquaintance, however, includes a few. So, I don’t take the “really searching” remark as a personal rudeness, but do consider it rudeness.

            In other inaccuracies, much of the “intellectual clutter” came about fairly late, in trying to consider what I actually HAD found in my searches thus far. Or rather, was found applicable fairly late.

            I’d also point out the seeming incongruity between Father Longenecker’s complaints about ignorance, and your complaints about intellectual clutter. It seems atheists are caught between complaints of both too little and too much attention to the Way of Intellectual Inquiry. Catch-22.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            No problem with debate being informed and intelligent. The criticism was about the the clutter and calling for clarity.

          • DFire

            Suffice it to say that making claims, especially derogatory ones, about a group or individual without providing evidence to substantiate said claims is generally considered poor form, and potentially (dare I say it?) trolling.

            Big thanks to abb3w for saving me from an awful lot of typing.

          • Oregon Catholic

            “So, I don’t take the “really searching” remark as a personal rudeness, but do consider it rudeness.”

            Hence the lack of an answer to your repeated probing on a sacred topic you can read about anywhere. It was very clear you weren’t searching for an answer but just more fodder for debate. Pearls before swine.

          • abb3w

            On the contrary; I’m still searching. However, you (in particular) seem to be pointing at a well that I and others have repeatedly checked, and found dry. And while I can “read about” a topic “anywhere”, that doesn’t answer what an particular individual thinks on a topic.

            What you may be trying to suggest is that I’m also looking to potentially change others’ minds, as well as explore their ideas. Which is true… but seems only fair, in so far as exploring their ideas also allows them the prospect of changing my mind.

    • Arthur Sawilejskij

      How can you be so ignorant to think a person needs your prayers.
      You are making a value judgement that your position is superior to a person that doesn’t share your views.
      It’s this air of superiority that gets up the nose of atheists – this better than though attitude.
      Why don’t you step up and take responsibility for your life and actions – instead of the lame line that it’s god’s will or you will leave decisions in his hands.
      What a cop out.
      Take responsibility – take action that your conscience dictats to make this a better world.
      Stop cringing behind religion!

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        Arthur, stop being superior and better than JoAnna and stop making value judgements about her!

        • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com JoAnna

          I agree, Father; I had to laugh at the irony of his comment!

  • Brian Westley

    “What I would expect is that anyone who is not knowledgable about a particular subject would have the courtesy (and the self respect) not to make wild, groundless assertions and then continue the argument by simply stating the same thing over again, but this time a little bit louder.”

    So why did you write this about a month back:

    “Humans might be able to live pursue a noble and tasteful and even an altruistic life without God, but why should they? What’s the point? Without God the only point of human goodness must be utilitarian.”

  • http://doctore0.wordpress.com/ doctore0

    Don’t compare religion and sports.. you look silly(er)

    • abb3w

      Less than one might casually think. You might care to track down M. Kenneth Brody’s paper “Institutionalized Sport as Quasi-Religion: Preliminary Considerations” (doi:10.1177/019372357900300203).

  • http://TheCatholicBeat.com Gail Finke

    And do they go around and comment on Protestant blogs, Muslim blogs, Mormon blogs, “emergent church” blogs, etc.? Or is it us they particularly hate? That’s what I’d like to know.

    • Ryan

      Yes, they do go around and comment on those blogs.

    • Gretchen

      To be fair, Gail, as an atheist I certainly don’t go around to Protestant, Muslim, Mormon, Evangelical et al blogs just to troll. Not all atheists do that.

      However, I have had Christians, Muslims, etc, come to my blog and threaten me with rape and torture, simply because I don’t believe, so you can’t lay all the blame on atheists.

      • Douglas Fo

        I only ended up here because I went to Google news and typed in “atheist” in the search block

    • abb3w

      There’s doubtless variation. It does look like the Catholic channel here at Patheos is more active than the Evangelical and Mormon channels. The Muslim channel seems somewhat active, but (at a quick glance) seems more about personal culture and less theological or political in approach.

      Since Catholicism is the largest religious denomination in the US probably draws it some attention. Other factors may make it seem a particularly promising target for trying persuasive argument, such as the allegations of sexual abuse cover-up, or the degree of discrepancy in political attitudes between laity versus clergy.

      Certain keywords — like “atheist” or “atheism” — are also more likely to draw attention via a Google keyword search. I don’t know if Patheos makes available to its bloggers a list of search terms that led to the blog, but that might turn up something.

      • abb3w

        Note, by “more active”, I’m referring to more initial posts, rather than comments (atheists or otherwise) in response.

  • Jim

    Father
    You forgot the sexual abuse of young males by sports coaches.

  • Josh

    I read Patheos now and then, but didn’t know your column. I found this post because it had appeared in Google News, which often links to Patheos. So I clicked on your name to see what you had written in the past, and found a cathedral photo titled “One of the great monuments built by atheists…Whoops. Just kidding.”

    So who trolled first?

    • Ken Jones

      Ummm, you can’t be a troll on your own site…

  • Douglas Fo

    So Fr. Dwight Longenecker;

    So do sports team require of their fans for their children to be initiated into their fanhood? Are the laws on the books trying to deny people civil rights because of said items aren’t in that games playbook? How many wars throughout history we initiated over whose team was better? Have their been people commiting suicide bombings to get on the honored players roster? And which teams are dictating they are the sole source of morality in the world, and people are required to support them with their donations, or they are going to be tortured forever?

    Please tell me.

    • HumanistJohn

      Douglas please don’t bother. Whenever we atheists bring these things up the theists like to just glosss over these uncomfortable facts or completely ignore them. Then we are called ignorant or lacking truth or some such nonsense and then they claim that christianity is being attacked which is of course ridiculous seeing as how there are churches every other block. Although I fully agree with what you wrote these people are unable/unwilling to admit it.

      • Doug Fo

        Well it is under attack(not “opression” as they try to portray it)for some simple reasons:

        People have been exposed to so many falsehoods, they are beginning to develop a filter for them at an earlier age. Since how religion operates is to indoctrinate the young while they are still credulous, nobody notices that the whole thing is predicated on circular reasoning.

        When people are noticing the falsehood at the same time an assertation of moral authority…they attack it. Call it “the Watergate Effect”

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I think you missed the point Doug Fo.

  • Glenn Juday

    Often enough the more aggressive and assertive atheist commenters are forthcoming enough about their motivations. For example, a logo or banner across the top of a web page may contain something like a birdcage with the door open and the bird flying free. Or it may contain explicit words, phrases, or quotes to the effect that individuals can free themselves of attachment to the ignorance and superstitions of religion and become enlightened. More subtle is the promise of being freed from all those confining restraints on the bundle of authentic desires that are the essence of our selves, so that human happiness can be advanced by smashing of the shackles of religion. Materialism, unrestrained and “guilt free” sexual indulgence, a hedonistic life – beckon. Some atheists, for now, may stop there. Sincere and tragically misguided.

    But some are gaining encouragement to advance (as they see it) further, into edgier and more exciting realms. In their thinking, why stop there? Why not confront this hateful thing that is a reproach by its very existence? So, to reinforce the anti-religious meta narrative, religion in general and the Catholic Church in particular are depicted exclusively in terms of coercion, ignorance, gullibility, and violence or threat of violence. Activism, that all-American solution to everything unpleasant in life, becomes a commitment incorporated into everyday life – a reason to get up in the morning. This starts a process, and certainly it is not a necessary consequence that all who start down the road will travel the whole distance. Maybe dialog with a believer, an encounter with the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church, or something as simple as human kindness will provide them the opportunity to re-evaluate and to step off the path.

    But, I believe it is particularly instructive to observe the way the way in which the contemporary anti-religious, and particularly anti-Catholic, narrative lingers, almost longingly, over the theme of violence as a sort of signal of, in essence, “This is what we are going to do to you as payback when we get the chance.”

    Wild speculation? Tragically not. The record of what happens when this beast is let loose, such as the early 20th century persecution of the Church by Mexican revolutionaries and a whole list of others, unfortunately probably is not complete yet. The IRA found that first step in training perfectly sane (not crazed) killers is to get them to murder the enemy first in their hearts. They were almost all viciously anti-Catholic. Our current crop of American anti-Catholic bigots often think that they can “domesticate” this hatred – keep it as a “pet” and turn it loose when they wish, and call it back when they like. They believe that they will be immune to the fallout when the hatred and persecution runs riot. Stalin is said to have found the protests of the dedicated Communists that he murdered in the millions particularly humorous and enthralling.

    It appears we are in a new era, and at least some of the more militant atheists believe that it is their moment, the culture and power relationships in society have irreversibly shifted in their direction. That analysis makes it all the more outrageous in their minds when they encounter actual Catholic believers, who “should” have disappeared with, well, the Age of Steam. So they reach into their tiny toolkit and apply ever bigger doses of scorn and a cramped, ignorant, and tendentious reading of history that is, and must be, On. Their. Side.

    If there is an Earthly apprenticeship for the self-torture of Hell, this must be close to it. We must pray for them, for only the power of prayer can break through such a hard, self-constructed crust. Apparently our calling in this day and age is to offer the witness of a fulfilled life in Christ, confident, courageous, and welcoming. We have nothing to fear and we know that our side wins in the end if we just remain faithful to Him. The sixties are over now.

  • Kieran

    While religious groups exert influence on lawmakers, claim special exemptions from the law (like tax exemptions, discrimination laws), claim the right to lie to children about history and science, and presume to lecture non-adherents about morality, it’s horrifcally arrogant to suggest that they should be above criticism.

    Frankly, religion isn’t some harmless but eccentric activity like jazz, croquet or quilting. None of these interest me, but none of them do me any harm, so I’m happy to leave them alone. Religion is a strong, malevolent influence on the world today. Religions suppress freedom of speech – witness the man jailed recently in Indonesia for writing on Facebook that there is no god. Women worldwide are oppressed in the name of Islam and Christianity. Wars worldwide are fought between groups in th service of their own gods.

    Where and when they are able, religious groups will control and oppress believers and non-believers alike, like the Catholic Church in the Phillipines and Ireland, or Imams in Iran. Where they are not able, they whine about respect and “freedom of religion”. Atheists will evaluate your morality from your behaviour and your truth claims on the evidence. If neither of them is worthy of respect, then neither are you.

  • D’n
    • abb3w

      The underlying Pew Forum report is more detailed.

      The questions used are fairly basic, and not abstruse theology; however, it does indicate that Atheists and Agnostics tend to average more knowledgeable about the basics of Christianity than Catholics.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        I’m talking about the Catholics on this blog and the atheists trolls who come here.

        • abb3w

          True. On the other hand, you’re not objectively measuring how knowledgeable each group tend to be, merely making a subjective assessment based on comments that catch your attention.

          It might make for an interesting experiment, if a suitable automated polling tool could be found to run the correlations. (A free SurveyMonkey account might suffice.) Use a dozen or two basic multiple choice questions about Catholic theology that you think would highlight the relative ignorance; ask standard age, state/country, and religious identification for demographics. (Note, you’ll probably want to distinguish “Atheist”, “Agnostic”, and “Nothing in Particular” among the irreligious.) Then compare how the Catholics and the Atheists do. You might also ask themselves to classify themselves on commenting: non-commenting passerby, regular non-commenting lurker, occasional commenter, regular commenter.

          Not good enough for solid scientific work, but might give you some empirical data to embarrass the local atheists with. Of course, it might also give you some data inconveniently disconfirmatory to the conjecture.

    • Dan

      Because clearly, this study regarding a large subset of the population completely correlates with the subset of the population that is doing the arguing. As disappointing as such findngs are, they are hardly new.

  • Melia

    I wouldn’t say they’re trolls. Trolling is when the person is only seeking a reaction, often for their own amusement. So if you had some drive-by comment such as:

    zomg u beleive in sky-fairieslol!!1!11!1

    then I would consider that trolling, as the person obviously only wants to provoke you. I agree that the various posts made by atheists around here are often hostile and uninformed, but like you, they have their own motivations and biases. Rather than calling them trolls, we should seek to gently correct the errors in their arguments.

  • http://quamangustaporta.blogspot.co.uk/ Malvenu

    What was that you were saying about the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Father…?

  • Tom Bush

    Considering I get told I’m going to “burn in hell” via Christian propaganda on the tube in London, it’s only fair you get your share of the trolling in some form or manner.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      So we should return nastiness for nastiness?

      • abb3w

        Depends what axiom you use as a basis to cross Hume’s is-ought divide, to create an ordering relationship on a set of choices for giving objective definition to “should”.

        (Though that leaves out consideration that the ordering may be an objective function of situation.)

        • Oregon Catholic

          This is a good example of what messes so many ‘thinkers’ up. Bring in so many variables to consider you not only can’t reach a conclusion you probably forget the question on your way to the answer.

          • abb3w

            This is a good example of what messes so many ‘theologians’ up. Bring in so many assumptions to leave unexamined that you not only reach a foregone conclusion you probably forget there was a question about the assumptions in the first place.

            Attitude bolstering, in contrast, involves support arguing- that is, generating thoughts that are consistent with and supportive of one’s original attitude without directly refuting message arguments (Abelson, 1959; Cameron & Jacks, 1999; Festinger, 1957; McGuire, 1964; Sherman & Gorkin, 1980). [...] Source derogation involves insulting the source, dismissing his or her expertise or trustworthiness, or otherwise rejecting his or her validity (Buller, 1986; Festinger, 1957; Festinger & Maccoby, 1964; Wright, 1975). [...] Finally, selective exposure involves resisting persuasion by leaving the situation or actively tuning out the persuasive message (e.g., Brock & Balloun, 1967; Frey, 1986; Kleinhesselink & Edwards, 1975).

            – “Strategies for Resisting Persuasion”, Jacks and Cameron, (doi:10.1207/S15324834BASP2502_5)

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            This applies to debaters of most any persuasion.

  • Dunadan

    Disclaimer – the following isn’t a pastoral opinion. But I’m not a pastor.

    So herein lies the question – does one censor these atheist trolls, asserting (quite correctly) that they have nothing meaningful to say (understand, I speak of the troll, not the atheist who really does just seek conversation/debate – like Fr, I enjoy a good debate and certainly don’t mind debating an atheist who is willing to respect my beliefs…I’ve never met one who was, but that’s beside the point)? They’ll cry fraud, of course, suggesting that they’re only censored because those doing the censoring can’t stand the “truth” (let’s ignore the inflammatory nature of that non-sequitur for now). They’ll call upon standards they neither understand nor respect, such as free speech, and decry the censoring party for their bigotry.

    Leaving aside the fact that one may in fact do whatever one wants on his/her own blog and no one really has the right to tell them they “can’t” – do atheists have a valid point in decrying such censorship? This raises two additional questions (for me, anyway). First, is there really a need to uphold such standards (free speech) when dealing with people such as these? We Christians have no problem with them being atheists; that’s their business after all, and while we might rejoice at their conversion, would certainly not seek to convert them by force. But they do not give us the same niceties – far from it; they seek to abolish religion because of its perceived (and false) dangers, thereby converting by force those who believe into those who do not and forbidding thoughts to the contrary, punishing or even killing those who resist. So what need have we of kindness, since the lack of censorship would in fact be kindness beyond reason in the face of this? Maybe this is in fact war, and we have no need to give quarter – in fact doing so would be unwise.

    Secondly, should we even care what they have to say? As a former atheist myself, I am perhaps well-qualified to make a summary judgement on their “beliefs” – they simply aren’t based in substance. The ridiculous and tiresomely over-used claims made by athiesm (the crusades, the “inquisition,” sexual abuse, etc etc) are simply not based in fact or truth. At best, the historical “facts” are unsupported by original sources, at worst they are simply the stuff of fantasy or some movie or other (or perhaps simply made up from whole cloth to support the atheist’s argument). The one making the argument is far too often a “coffee-shop historian” at best, never having actually read trustworthy sources on the subjects they claim to be experts in. Those former atheists (such as I once was) who dare to actually examine the facts and history without filter tend to find that all they hold to is a lie, and their “reason” simply can’t dig them out of the hole of their unbelief – it really is simply as simple as right and wrong, fact and lies. Once one sees the facts and the truth for what it is, one cannot help but fall on their knees before the Creator, as the prodigal before his father, and beg for forgiveness. So again I ask – of what value is the opinion of a man who refuses to acknowledge truth for what it is?

    Therefore I submit an answer for both questions – my opinion, but based (I hope) on sound reasoning. First, there is nothing wrong with censoring evil. At best, the words of evil men are simply vacuous, at worst, they are corrupting and misleading. It is fine, as Fr says, to question what one believes, but only from the position and in the hope of strengthening one’s faith. It isn’t “ok” to question one’s faith because the Evil One tempts us to do so – understandable perhaps, due to our human nature, but not “ok.” And yes, atheism is evil. So yes, I say censor them as one censors the Evil One, and pray for their souls. It is perfectly fine to engage an evil man in conversation with the hopes of converting him, but that doesn’t mean we have to give a second’s thought to his evil words.

    And therein lies the answer to the second question, we don’t care what they have to say, any more than we care what the Devil himself has to say. The playing field isn’t equal here, folks – this is war; a war of words and prayers instead of cannon and tanks, perhaps – but still war. Censor them – simply block them from posting once they’ve demonstrated an unwillingness to act nice. Give no quarter to the Enemy – he has nothing of value to say, and he seeks our destruction.

    Of course, maybe that’s a lot of hot air wasted when I could have just said “don’t feed the trolls.” :)

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I only cut them if they are blasphemous, really crude or launching completely nasty personal attacks.

      • dave

        You mean like the previous commenter perhaps … who suggests non-believers are evil, thats a tad personal, yet it does not appear to bother you at all.

      • Dunadan

        Understood, my post certainly wasn’t directed at you, Fr – just my own opinion!

    • abb3w

      I’ll note, while irreligious to religious conversions of those “who dare to actually examine the facts and history without filter” does occur, that appears (from the Altemeyer and Hunsberger “Amazing Conversions” study) to perhaps more often go the other way. Irreligious to religious conversion appears more often to be associated with an authoritarian follower mindset, and crises in one’s personal life. In contrast, religious to irreligious conversion appears more often associated with a lack of such mindset, and early intellectual doubts that were met with a “seek wider” rather than a “seek confirmation” approach. That is, more looking to “examine the facts and history without filter” than “only from the position and in the hope of strengthening one’s faith”.

  • http://pegponderingagain.wordpress.com/ Peg Demetris

    Pray for those who persecute you.. And know how shock they will be when they meet Him. Mercy is a beautiful thing.

  • abb3w

    You suggest you’d learn more about sport before commenting; did you actually do so for atheism before making your previous posts on it? Read any of the sociological work out there, such as the Altemeyer and Hunsberger “Amazing Conversions” and “Atheists” studies? Examined the various ARIS and Pew Forum studies that discussed how the irreligious differ from the religious? You appear not to be practicing what you preach, in this regard.

    Your remarks also seem to neglect that most of the irreligious are the result of a religious upbringing, even (though less often) a highly devout one. I’d suggest that some of the “ignorance” may be caricature, given in response to the caricature (accidental or otherwise) of your own posts or other’s comments on atheists and atheism. Perhaps you might find it an effective counter-response to respond to rudeness by turning the other cheek, and politely suggesting which particular reading most directly responds to their point.

    The “crude language, poor manners, and aggressive style” in part is that internet comments in general tend to be less polite than in face-to-face discussion; I think there’s some technical papers on economics, social costs, and pseudonyms if you really care. More particular to religious discussions, there seems an element of refusal to give deference to claims of prestige when considered lacking in warrant — and social signalling to others that such warrant appears lacking. The nuances of reasoning in Catholic moral theology are relatively unimportant when one is rejecting the fundamental premises used at the onset. EG, rejecting your conclusion “I ought to be dignified enough to mind my own business” because I do not accept the basis you use for an is-ought ordering on a set of choices as the only possibly such basis. Personally, I prefer to respond with something resembling polite counterargument as seeming a better approach, though I find it difficult to avoid being patronizing in return to what seems a patronizing way of saying “please shut up”.

  • joe kool

    Father assumes atheists are too uneducated in Theology and biblical studies to make an informed argument. But many of us are ( active) atheists because we ( ex-Christians) have spent a lifetime in such studies and education, and a lifetime in Christian culture and family.
    Otherwise we probably would not bother being interested in the subject to begin with.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I’m talking about the atheists who have commented on this blog.

  • Annalise

    ….annnddddd….this is why reading the comment boxes on most (all?) blogs is a pointless, never-ending waste of time.

    Trolls, trolls, trolls.

  • kenneth

    A lot of what draws trolls to a blog or discourages them has to do with the tone and topics of the discussion. If the topics are lightning rod sorts of issues like culture war, gay marriage, etc or if the tone is confrontational, guess what? You’ll draw confrontational people. The recent “spiritual but not religious” series is a case in point. The tone and the implied and sometimes explicit text basically told anyone who is not “properly” religious that they are fools or worse; spiritual if not mental lightweights. Why would it be the least bit surprising to see pushback from people who might not have the most charitable things to say about Catholicism or Christianity in general? If you want a give and take “can’t we just agree to disagree” dynamic in the blogosphere or in real life, you actually have to project that yourself. I should clarify that I’m neither Christian nor atheist, so I don’t have a dog in that fight.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Good point. Thanks for visiting the blog.

    • Max Lindenman

      There’s some truth in that. For better or worse, blogging is a mug’s game. If you want the page views and the cultural relevance, you’ve got to hit the hot-button issues. (Ambivalent as I am about so many things, I generally leave them be, and consequently remain both obscure and unmolested.) But still, there are lines within lines. Lately, I’ve seen trolls cross the innermost ones. If the blogger says, “You suck” in a polite, roundabout way, they’ll say “You suck” in those very words. Worse, some atheist bloggers are getting as nasty as the trolls. The so-called Friendly Atheist’s reply to Msgr. Charles Pope was the most twerpish piece of writing I’ve seen in a long, long time.

  • Lynda

    The ignorance of the self-identified “atheists” accusing Catholic Church falsely and presumptuously regarding such things as the Spanish Inquisition, persecution of Jews, etc., is quite breathtaking. These propagandist myths and lies have been debunked by all serious historians, whether or not they, themselves, confess a faith in God. There is no good reason to publish such gratuitous and inane insults. God bless your work on your blog, Father.

  • Glenn Juday

    The atheist movement has a calm, rational component, a critical mass of folks who would never hurt a flea and who build up their communities. But it has trouble owning up to the very significant and growing radical component within its ranks. From them we see manufactured anger, bitterness, a pseudo-intellectual pose that is impervious to actual fact, and a desperate attempt to lay blame on the Catholic Faith in particular that will justify its forced disappearance (read into that what you will) as a means of achieving a genuine panacea – literally a universal cure – for everything bad, or at least everything they do not like.

    This global, simplistic compulsion to explain all that is undesirable as having a unique focus and identity was, when taken to the extreme, of course the emotional/intellectual basis for the final solution directed at the Jews. Read the rationalizations of the early 20th century and see the parallels. “If it just weren’t for the Jews and their evil murdering ways …” and compare to the extremist comments Fr. Longnecker is getting “If it just weren’t for this evil Church and its murderous ways …”

    When somebody is cogent and considerate enough to tell you that they wish to see you and the “evil” you value and identify with removed from the stage of history – believe them. They do wish to see us gone. The only real scope for debate? The means, and schedule, by which the job will get done. The acceptable, to them, terms of doing so appear to be shifting, and they want us to know it.

    • abb3w

      You seem to be using a one-factor model. I’d suggest reading Altemeyer’s “The Authoritarians”, and Kinneman’s “You Lost Me”, and applying the two-factor RWA/SDO model of the former to the latter, given the correlations in the former with respect to religiosity.

      Atheists tend to be too low-RWA for the “final solution” comparison to be much better than farce.

      • Oregon Catholic

        I could write a post describing personality types using medical terminology that would force you to use a medical dictionary to look up the meaning of every other word but what would be the point except to annoy and try to look ‘brighter than’.

        • abb3w

          In this case, the point is that I think the RWA/SDO model is more accurate, and has more than a little empirical data about it, including correlations to religiosity; that both books I referred to are targeted to a lay audience, and the former (with the more objective data) is available on-line in a free PDF; and that it seems that you’d be more likely to accept the inferences if you work them out for yourself.

    • Doug Fo

      You think atheists calling out “I think this is a lot of malarkey” is somehow akin to the Holocaust. Amazing.

      Malarkey; that’s all I am saying; I think that all god belief is about the same as someone who thinks the are a real spell casting wizard. I am not going to accept linguistic slights of hand, someone going “the ways of wizardry are subtle,” someone stating there’s a tradition of wizard belief, the statement that wizarding as, ” rich, complex and profound,” or them clucking there tongues as to your mind being too small to accept the real nature of the mystical arts and being insufficiently read on the subject.

      Because that’s what many of you are doing here.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        You remind me of a woman in England who was my wife’s hairdresser. When my wife told her I wrote books she said, “What kind of books?” “Books about religion.” Big pause. “I thought there really couldn’t be much more than one book about religions!”

        Religion is an area of human achievement and knowledge just like many others. The vast majority of the world’s people are religious in some way or another. Religions enshrine for us not only great architecture and music and literature, but they are living repositories of culture, philosophy and learning of all kinds. From the religious impulse have come the greatest (and the worst) things of human culture and history. Theology, folklore, religious legends and stories, customs and scholarship comprise a huge and fascinating aspect of what it means to be human.

        And you just sit there and say, “That’s really dumb all that stuff!”

        It would be like going into the National Gallery of Art and saying, “Those pictures are nothing but pigment and oil smeared on some old piece of cloth–and then they make people pay good money to see them!”

        If you should go into an art gallery and say such a thing do you think you would reveal anything about the art on the walls, or reveal something about yourself?

        • Douglas Fo

          “Theology, folklore, religious legends and stories, customs and scholarship comprise a huge and fascinating aspect of what it means to be human.”

          They do, that’s why I enjoy reading them. I also enjoy reading tales of wizards. However, I assign the same truth value to them; unlikely in the extreme and unprovable. And perhaps put down the strawman you keep on attacking.

  • http://biblicalanthropology.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Father, you describe very well my experience of atheists who comment at my blogs. Often their’s are drive-by comments. I don’t think they really want to engage in a serious conversation.

  • http://WWGHA Shnozzola

    Hi all,
    I consider myself an agnostic atheist. Most of my family is Christian, but we are from a denomination that singles out the love of Jesus far over anything else. I considered myself a Christian long after I thought the virgin birth and the resurrection, well, did not matter, and probably were not true. For some Christians, that would be utter blaspheme, and others, it would not matter. In atheist arguments, the picking and choosing of what one believes from the bible, is frowned upon, leading to the 43,000 some denominations. The Bible is beautiful, and has so much of the most important wisdom known to man, as do religious books from many religions. As long as a Christian and Muslim and Buddhist can respect each other’s views, I have no problem with that – but when one believes he is correct and shoots at the others, and I get killed while eating jelly donuts and practicing juggling – I have a problem with the individual who was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt he was right – and willing to kill for it. Understand? Because I am not so sure of anything like the rest of you – but I am enjoying my life immensely – please do not harm me.

  • http://whywontgodhealamputees.com Shnozzola

    I guess I am replying to myself. I just wanted to invite anyone to the website
    Whywontgodhealamputees.com
    To be sure, it is dogmatically atheist, but you will find people know their Bible and will be brutal with logic.
    For myself, God got smaller and smaller the older I got, and, probably after 9/11, I started to question when God atually would get involved, then , hmmmm, wait a minute – has god ever been involved, or has mankind, step by step, solved our own problems, and god got the credit when we did not understand fire, or lightning, or blood, or DNA, or what may have caused the universe – God has just gotten very very small for me. The definition has changed. But we already have words to define what God may be, so maybe he isn’t.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Has God gotten really small or have you gotten really big? God can’t exist because He doesn’t run things the way you think they should be or you can’t see His involvement? I hear this all the time from atheists. They are simply replacing the God they don’t like with the one they do – themselves.

      • abb3w

        It’s not that God can’t exist; it’s that the evidence indicates he most probably doesn’t. It’s similar Richard Feynman’s quip on UFOs. “Anyway, I have to argue about flying saucers on the beach with people, you know. And I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that’s true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it’s possible or not but whether it’s going on or not.

  • http://wwgha Shnozzola

    I don’t believe God is or isn’t running things the way I’d like – I am certainly no one who has any answers – but just by looking at existence from another view point, it allows me to see that the other view point may be true – if a being that judges us on how much faith we have in him damns me for looking from another view point – hmmm? Seems silly, trivial. I am not replacing God with me – I’m replacing God with you – with all of us existing together.

  • http://oldbob44.blogspot.com Bob

    Many thanks, Father! Excellent essay!

  • http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    The birth of Messiah from the Virgin Mary and His resurrection from the dead are at the core of the Christian faith.

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

    As an atheist, I simply believe in one less god than a Christian — out of the nearly 3,000 gods that the human mind has created since the beginning of recorded history. Other than God (of the Bible) saying he exists — in words written by men — there is no evidence his existence other than anecdote or personal testimonial — the same as with any other human-created god.

    Understand this about the majority of atheists, including myself: we don’t state with 100% certainty that it’s impossible for God/gods to exist, only that until there is scientific evidence of that existence, we are saying that it’s highly improbable. I would think any Christian can understand that; how many of you have never doubted God’s existence? I would think a very small number. Each one of us will have our questions answered, our doubts resolved, at the moment of death. Until that point, anything said for, or against, God’s reality is mere speculation — no matter how much evidence or lack thereof.

    When I die, if I find out that God does exist, all I’ll be able to say is “Well… I’ll be damned.” Which I’m sure every Christian in Heaven will respond to with “I told you so.” If there is no God, when you Christians die, your mind will cease to exist; however, there will be no atheists waiting to say “I told you so,” that’s not how we roll.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Requiring scientific proof for the existence of God is like requiring scientific proof for love. This is the frustration theists experience in such conversations. Atheist materialists come at the argument with all the wrong questions, so no wonder they get the wrong answers. The way many atheists approach the question of religion is like asking what color Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is.

      As to the question of a final judgement, I’ve always found Pascal’s Wager a sure bet.

      • abb3w

        Scientific proof for love is actually comparatively easy. There are behaviors associated, patterns of neurological activity that correlate, and so on. It’s as recognizable as inertia. God is quite a bit more problematic.

        There’s several problems in Pascal’s wager, mathematically. (In Pascal’s defense, he predates both Cantor’s diagonalization and Bertrand’s paradox.) It’s more effective for attitude bolstering in the believer than as argument for persuading the unbeliever.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          What interests me therefore is what your definition of ‘love’ is.

          • abb3w

            The OED I.1.a seems close enough for discussion: “A feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone, typically arising from a recognition of attractive qualities, from natural affinity, or from sympathy and manifesting itself in concern for the other’s welfare and pleasure in his or her presence”.

            Are you familiar with the Richard Feynman anecdote about his father and inertia? (Youtube has the video.) It seems likely to be imminently illustrative, if prescriptivism versus descriptivism in an empirical context comes up.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You are speaking of ‘love’ as human affection.

            Christian theologians understand this to be a more far reaching concept. You seem to be quite a learned person. I’m sure you’ve mastered the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas. I encourage you to refresh your memory on Aquinas’ understanding of love. You will also remember your Dante and draw his understanding into a wider definition. C.S.Lewis wrote a classic called ‘The Four Loves’ which you may also have read. He identifies four types of love from the classical writings Storge, Philia, Eros and Agape.

            We can indeed find evidence for love through a process similar to that used by scientists. Namely, we observe the world around us. We process our observations and begin to draw conclusions about them. We consult the findings of those who have gone before us and made valid conclusions based on their experience and observations. Gathering all the data we then develop a hypothesis and test it. From that we develop a theory to explain the reality of our observations. We continue to observe and test and refine our conclusions and modify our theory according to our findings. This process is how we determine the existence of love and it is also how we determine the existence of God. In both cases (as in many scientific theories) absolute proof may be lacking, but enough evidence from experience and observation and the experience of tradition makes possible a conclusion firm enough to act on. When we act on such conclusions religious people call this ‘faith’.

          • abb3w

            Ah, something like common ground at last!

            I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered the Summa Theologica. I’ve read it, a few years back; similarly “The Four Loves” by Lewis. The main difficulty of the Summa seems that it implicitly presupposes authority of scripture; a premise I might consider for inference, but unacceptable without other priors. Lewis is less of a problem; I’ve no problems with his terms giving more specific sub-categories of behavior/emotion patterns, though I’d disagree with some of his theological inferences about them. To get into detail on Lewis, I’d have to borrow another copy.

            I’m not sure that’s immediately necessary, however. The question of love appears more to be a particular case of a more general sort of question. To wit, you appear to stipulate there that your determination of the existence of God is based on inference from observation/experience. This leads to the question as to by what general principle such conclusions may be justified. There’s been some interesting work done since Hume’s time on that.

            Personally, I prefer to use the word “trust” to such conclusions and action thereon, as they are potentially subject to revision based on further evidence (or a change in underlying premises). To reduce contextual ambiguities, I prefer to reserve the word “faith” specifically to the taking of premises unjustified by any priors. For example of the latter, taking as an axiom of the Commutativity of Logical Inclusive Disjunction — that (P OR Q) is equivalent to (Q OR P), such that either may be inferred from the other. However, if you’d care to suggest other terminology to maintain the distinction, I can work with that; or I can simply indicate which of the two your uses seem to correspond to.

      • pleasedtomeetme

        To the contrary, saying that “requiring scientific proof for the existence of God is like requiring scientific proof of love” is the frustration atheists experience in such conversations. While there may not be a way to scientifically prove there is a thing called “love,” there most certainly should be some scientific evidence – if not for the existence of God – for God’s supposedly active intervention in the natural world. Because that is what science does: it examines the natural world. For instance, if we are to believe the Biblical account of “the great flood,” then there would be scientific evidence of such a world-wide cataclysm. There is no evidence that such a flood (nor is there evidence of the mass human extinction that went with it – save Noah and his family). Likewise, the enslavement of the Jewish people in Egypt for +/- 400 years and subsequent exodus would certainly be recorded in Egyptian, non-Biblical, history. But there is no independent verification of such a period in Egypt’s history. Similarly, there is no historical evidence that Caesar Augustus ordered a census be taken at the time the Bible says Jesus was born. I could go on, but I think you get my point. The moment God decided to influence nature, then there is sufficient reason to believe evidence of that influence would be discoverable.
        On an aside, while there may be no scientifc proof of “love,” one does employ parts of the scientific method when dealing with the subject. For instance, you could say that I have no scientific proof that my wife loves me. But I can certainly observe her actions and words toward me. And I can actually interact with her knowing she is real and tangible. Or, she could be lying….I’ll have to get back to you on that.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Thank you for your comment. You seem to be confusing questions of Biblical interpretation and the historical reliability of the Bible with arguments for the existence of God. These are separate questions. The proper interpretation of the Bible and the historical evidence for the Bible stories are the stuff that Biblical scholars rightly research, debate and discuss. If you are genuinely interested in this very fascinating discipline, then I encourage you to embark on further study. The answers are there, but it is a complex field.

          On the matter of evidence for either Love of God–you are right. We do look for evidence of both, but not with microscopes and chemical tests. The process is similar to the process that scientists use to discover truth: We observe the world around us. We attempt to make sense of the world we observe. We draw on the research, observations and conclusions of those who have gone through this process in the past. We continue to gather data and make hypotheses that make sense of the data. Then at some point we draw conclusions based on the process we have gone through. The conclusion–like any scientific theory–is one which works best for as far as we have got. We continue to research, observe, understand and refine our theory.

          So it is with mankind’s experience of God.

          • pleasedtomeetme

            But other than Biblical interpretation and the historical reliability of the Bible, what arguments are there for the existence of God? Assume for a moment the Bible had never been written (or, more accurately, assembled by men – as we currently know it). Without the supporting document, the entirety of Christianity would be based solely on hearsay evidence. Is it not paradoxical to claim that Biblical interpretation and the historical reliability of the Bible is unrelated to the claim that God truly does exist? Can you have one (God) without the other (Bible)?

            I’d also like to take a moment to respond to your original OP (I know, I know….how refresthing). You stated, “What has emerged from the discussions is how genuinely ignorant most of the atheists are about the things on which they wish to comment.” Then, “…I would not expect an atheist to be an expert in New Testament scholarship, medieval church history or Catholic moral theology. What I would expect is that anyone who is not knowledgable about a particular subject would have the courtesy (and the self respect) not to make wild, groundless assertions and then continue the argument by simply stating the same thing over again, but this time a little bit louder.” As someone else stated earlier, most atheists (in the West) come from a Christian background. I know I did. It was only upon reflection of the contrast between what I was taught as “Christian truth” and what I observed in reality did my faith crumble. I wasn’t “angry at God” and I didn’t wish to live some hedonistic, unregulated lifestyle. I’m married, have a 7 yearl old son, and live my life pretty much like the most devout Christian out there. I just have no belief in a supernatural being. I’ve never seen evidence of God: no euphoric feelings; no “inner peace” due to God’s presence; I’ve never seen any evidence that prayer accomplishes anything, etc. etc. etc. The world, as I see it, exhibits all the characteristics of a place where a benevolent, loving, merciful God does not exist. Note: I’m not saying there is no God. I’m saying I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that would lead me to believe that God exists.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            I understand. When I said atheists spoke in ignorance I was referring to the specific atheists who were presuming to comment on what were rather specialist areas of Christian interest. They did not seem to have the knowledge and educational background to be making such wild assertions. I think you are correct that most atheists in the West do speak from at least a moderately Christian educated background–but in admitting this I must say that most people’s religious training is very limited and from my perspective as a Catholic priest the understanding most Americans have of historic Christian scholarship and theology is not good. When we add to that the fact that those who do have a religious background have had their formation in a Protestant anti-Catholic context the understanding of the Catholic way of seeing is very clouded by misinformation and honestly held misunderstandings.

            It sounds to me like you have probably come from a Protestant background yourself. Is that correct? If I am right in this guess, then the markers for an experience of a divine being are the ones you have set out: the reliability of the Bible as God’s word and the personal emotional experience of the divine.

            Catholics look at the whole question from a very different perspective. We begin with natural revelation–the idea that every person is capable of seeing the work of a Creator in the natural world around him. This natural revelation blossoms into what we might call natural religion–the religion of pagans and animists. Out of this we believe God began to reveal himself specifically to the Hebrew people in a unique way through their family and tribal history. This history culminates in the revelation of God through the incarnation of his son–Jesus Christ. This long and continual process is the revelation of God in the world, and the Bible is simply the record or witness of that revelatory action of God in the world.

            For us one’s personal experience is not so much an emotional experience of the divine–a personal and subjective answer to prayer or ‘religious feeling’ but instead a recognition through reason and the deductive process first of God’s existence and then of God’s work in the world, and our response to it is a response in which we regard this as trustworthy and assent to the beliefs of the Christian faith and seek to live our lives according to its precepts. This is what we would call ‘faith’. The faith response includes receiving the sacraments from Christ’s Church and seeking to live within his commandments. We understand this to be a very objective process. “I have seen the truth. I have decided to commit myself to it. I have received the sacraments of the church which seal my decision in a covenant agreement with God. I now live my life according to his precepts.” It is pretty cut and dried really. There can be plenty of religious experiences within it, but there doesn’t need to be.

            It is within a lifetime of following this way of life that we most profoundly experience the revelation of God at work in our own experience. This experience connects with, and reflects the experience of God within the Scriptures and the lives of the saints and so our personal experience is validated by the greater experience of those living the Christian faith and conversely their experience is validated in our lives by the experience we have.

            Thank you for visiting my blog and engaging in useful and meaningful discussion!

      • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

        “Requiring scientific proof for the existence of God is like requiring scientific proof for love” No, not really. Science is working on explaining love, since there may well be a biological basis for love, and they have something physical to work with. Science is nowhere in explaining God because there is nothing physical there to study. Pascal’s Wager still operates from the standpoint that truth of God/no God cannot be known, only that one should live their live as though God does exists. Atheists call that living a moral live, based on values that have evolved over the millions of years human existence.

        Morality predates all gods in recorded history (and probably kept us from wiping each other out many times, one recent example being nuclear annihilation, though we still live under that threat), religions have adopted/rejected certain moral behaviors as they see fit, mostly based on cultural/tribal/environmental factors. Morality is simply a social contract, with several that are universal, because they are based on natural law, that even animals understand — have an instinct to avoid — such keeping the gene pool as diverse as possible, i.e., brothers and sisters, parents and children, should not make babies together. The killing of ones own children is practiced by many animals and, correct me if I’m wrong, was also encouraged by the God of Abraham on at least one occasion.

        I didn’t come to be an atheist by asking the wrong questions; I came to atheism by not having my questions properly answered by religion. To me, God and the Bible is a reverse Catch-22. Each proving the other exists because they say so, when it’s really just words on paper, nothing more. Because God says so, because someone wrote words to that effect in the Bible, which is God’s word because God/the Bible says so, is not an answer. Someone saying God exists because they *just* know he exists, they can feel the presence, the love, is not an answer.

        As to the color of Beethoven’s Fifth, ask that question of a synesthesiac.

    • Oregon Catholic

      I think most atheists suffer from a complete lack of rationality when it comes to the evidence for God. He is evident in the miracle of creation all around you. To think you could put the Creator of the universe under a microscope, so to speak, to study and quantify Him is just about the most irrational thing I’ve ever heard. There is no analogy possible to convey how small you and your intellect is in relation to God, but you want to ‘prove’ His existence by scientific method.

      • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

        I think most theists suffer from a complete lack of rationality when it comes to the evidence for the universe. It is evident in the miracle of creation all around you. To think you cannot put the creation of the universe under a microscope, so to speak, to study and quantify it is just about the most irrational thing I’ve ever heard. There is no analogy possible to convey how small you and your intellect is in relation to universe, yet you want to “prove” its existence came from a supernatural power.

        • Oregon Catholic

          How are you coming on explaining how to get around the uncaused cause? Or are you one of the atheists that thinks God, if He existed, would just be a really smart guy who hangs out somewhere in the universe and we’ll find his trail of breadcrumbs someday?

          • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

            To your first question, what is this “uncaused cause” you’re speaking of? Please enlighten me.
            To the second question, A) that’s a ridiculous assertion, and B) if God existed, why didn’t he make his presence known simultaneously to all people around the world, instead of a small group of persecuted Jews in the Middle East, with advice specific to their situation?

          • Oregon Catholic

            Re: uncaused cause is a well-known philosophical argument. I suggest you google it for a better explanation than I could give you here.

            Because that was God’s plan for how He wished to make himself known. As to why He chose that plan, you’ll have to ask Him.

      • abb3w

        There’s some basic problems with those claims, back around the territory of Hume’s problem of induction. Unfortunately, you’ve said you “don’t understand higher level math”, and the resolution involves a lot of that. At least, I’m presuming you’d consider “higher level” to include set theory, formal grammars and theory of computation, and a bit of axiomatic probability.

        Without getting into the hairy details, the problem is that the scientific method can be derived from more basic axiom-level principles. To avoid God being subject to its examination, you have to avoid the taking premises (even implicitly) to allow its derivation. There are a couple ways to do so, but all preclude the possibility of saying God is evident. (Perhaps more bothersome, the ways all also preclude having evident the difference between a hawk and a handsaw.)

        • flyingvic

          If it is true, as Christians maintain, that God not only exists but is the creator of all that there is, it is certainly also true that he is to be apprehended only by faith, not by sight. And if he is ‘clever’ enough (and by using the human descriptives ‘he’ and ‘clever’ I am already disclosing the inadequacies of language even to approach the reality of what God is like) to be beyond the sight of science while remaining within the perception of faith, I’m quite sure that he can avoid being tied down by language or trapped by human logic or cornered by “set theory, formal grammars and theory of computation, and a bit of axiomatic probability” as well. What we are left with is deciding how, if at all, we may come to terms with the one who is reported as saying, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” That means that we are thrown back upon our own judgement about whether we believe his words to be trustworthy and whether we are prepared to follow a gut reaction in the absence of scientific evidence – just as we have to make up our minds about lovers, politicians and business-people. But nobody said it was easy, did they?

          • abb3w

            The notion that he can avoid being tied down by language or trapped by human logic or cornered by “set theory, formal grammars and theory of computation, and a bit of axiomatic probability” as well works pretty well only until you start looking at the details.

            For example, I find it’s rather difficult to consider God being able to evade the Commutativity of Logical Inclusive Disjunction. 

            Also, under this context “a gut reaction in the absence of scientific evidence” is an oxymoron. A gut reaction is experienced; therefore, it is evidence, which is within the scope of science as a philosophical discipline. The question is what produces it — God, or indigestion over philosophical conundrums.

          • flyingvic

            As you wish. I’ll happily keep hold of the ‘oxy’ and leave the rest of it in your capable hands.

          • abb3w

            See well above about “source derogation”.

  • DJ

    We are happy to let you catholics play in your little sandbox as long as you stay there and not cause trouble for the rest of us. But when you start splatting about, saying your institutions shouldn’t provide adequate healthcare for female employees, or conning the Indian people with magic shows, that’s when we’re calling you out.
    “The internet… where religions go to die.”
    Oh, and here’s another miracle for your hit parade. http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/31296155/detail.html
    And here’s more evidence of the good works of mother church. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/us/philadelphia-church-official-to-be-sentenced-in-abuse-case.html

    • Oregon Catholic

      “We are happy to let you catholics play in your little sandbox as long as you stay there and not cause trouble for the rest of us.”

      We’re seeing these kinds of veiled threats more and more often and all they do is increase our resolve not to have our rights as citizens taken away.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        DJ–what exactly would a Catholic have to do to ’cause you trouble’ and if they did cause you trouble what do you think the best response should be? Would you favor immediate imprisonment, fines, deprivation of civil rights or do you favor permanent incarceration, perhaps ‘rehabilitation’ using physical pressure? Maybe you would be in favor of taking our children from us, closing our schools, monasteries and printing presses. Would you wish to close down our radio stations, nationalize our hospitals and schools? Just what did you have in mind?

  • flyingvic

    Well it’s good to know that you’re prepared to patronise those you disagree with as long as they don’t say anything in public. It gives me a nice little warm feeling deep inside.

  • Glenn Juday

    I found it necessary in this and some related threads to make some clear and sharp observations of the character of an emerging radical wing of the atheist camp among our fellow citizens. I work in an environment dominated by atheists and in a part of the country as secular as they come. I can easily think of a number of atheists as prominent among the people of the best character that I know. But it is as clear as it can be that there is vigor, growth, and a new boldness within that radical camp. It’s a deeply weird development and a danger to the liberties of all.

    It’s weird because one of principal narrative devices used to target and denigrate the Catholic Church is the false claim of its innate desire to deny human freedom, rationality, and conscience. Yet the radical faction are becoming clearer and bolder in stating that those are the exact things that must be denied Catholics. It’s a danger to all because lingering over, mentally constructing, beastly desires is the first half step to implementing them, and once the beast has been let loose it will not remain a pet that will obey you while no one else.

    I have very little expectation that the radicals will take heed, but for the record their attempts at intimidation and abuse of logic need to be resisted. There is a modest but not inconsiderable prospect of good from dialog with atheists of conscience,and particularly to an appeal to common interest. The initial focus is often best based on the common good and sustaining the rights of conscience for all, and at least alleviating the worst misconceptions about the Church or history, etc. Some genuinely want to think through their position in a dialog of respect with believers, but a number are responsive to other agendas.

    But the greatest value of one of these threads is to expose Catholic and other Christian believers to the new reality that we face – a reality that includes an angry, bitter, and increasingly organized and determined radical atheist movement that means to see us gone. We are all adults here, so we don’t need to hedge and sugar coat this. A number of comments on this thread alone are clear evidence of this emerging reality. The point is that we ignore our new circumstances at our peril and the peril of the long-term survival of a free and just society. I’m realistic enough to realize that some Christians will wither under the increasing social pressure and fall away. That would be nothing new in the history of the Church. There is always a new set of characters or movements that spring up and concludes they have the Church on the ropes, and if they just push a little harder, ridicule a little louder, imprison a few more Christians they can get the job done once and for all. But the Church continues to grow and find new sources of vitality despite all that humans do to betray her. Atheists have the most depressing record of failure after failure, and the pattern is not likely to be broken soon.

    So, welcome to early 21st century America. It’s a great time to recomfirm ourselves in the Faith, to strengthen our families – our real Earthly strength. It’s just the time to creatively apply ourselves to inventing the next great achievements of human culture and creativity rooted in faith and hope in the One, True, and Living God, so that centuries from now as people encounter what has been preserved of our time, they will stand in awe and wonder what could have inspired people of that time to such beauty, truth, and goodness.

  • Mark Ferris

    This thread also shows that, just like in all other communities, the Atheist one is not homogenous. I myself have lurked on numerous threads, especially John Wrights, where atheists display a level of study in the fields of logic, theology and philosophy which could only be described as exceptional. All analogies have their limitations and I am sure someone will point out the limits of mine. But, if I may: Logic is like a perfectly made ladder. You start on the first rung, and each succeeding step leads you, without fail, along a straight path to your destination. As anyone who has cleaned out his own gutters also knows, however, is if the ladder is not set on a stable base, the destination becomes unclear. Many Atheists seem to think that Christians place their ladder upon the Bible, a shifty library of contradiction and historical inaccuracy. But what Christians actually place their ladder on is something quite different. If you believe that Humans are merely smart mammals with opposable thumbs, then your ladder, when placed upon that premise, will lead to atheism. If you believe that Humans are somehow set apart from the other animals. That they have an indelible mark, a soul perhaps. If you see something different in your child’s or mothers eyes besides innate intelligence. Something different than Flipper with thumbs. Then place your ladder upon THAT, and it will lead to God.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Good observation!

  • Seppuku

    Hello Father,

    I think there is some frustration from within the atheist community and there is a reason for it. I think sometimes it’s worth asking them about it. I don’t think people should just ‘hush’, because it just means hiding it under the rug, I think discourse is a wonderful thing, language is a great thing, whether you believe we evolved the ability over generations and generations or if you believe it’s a God-given gift. I don’t think brushing people off as trolls helps either. Yes, some folks are trolls, but generally trolls are there for the specific purpose of winding you up. A troll’s purpose is not to convince you of anything, they might not even believe what they say. Their purpose is to annoy you.

    I get into discussions with Christians on the internet and to be honest it can be very frustrating, not because they refuse to give in, but for various other reasons, usually in how they engage the discussion. That’s not to say it’s the case for all, I have got into discussions with Christians who engage in a much more positive way.

    Most of the time I find Christians tend to completely misunderstand and misrepresent the opposite side. You wouldn’t believe the kinds of misconceptions we read, some of them are actually pretty insulting, yet the Christian may not realise it or realise why somebody is offended, then they assume that you’re just being ignorant.

    Many atheists were previously Christians and take their understanding of Christianity from their sects and also from Christians they encounter. My knowledge of the bible comes from debating Christians (or just by listening) and from my own quote digging. One of the troubles with Christianity is that there’s a lot of sects out there, approx. 38,000, but none have actually been able to demonstrate why their sect is right and why others’ are wrong. When I challenge people’s view on the bible I will use the views of an opposing sect in hope that somebody can justify why they’re right and the other Christians are wrong. In my experience, each sect is able to back their arguments strongly with the bible. So far I have been unsuccessful in determining what a true Christian is. If I knew what a true one was, then I’d be able to pursue that in my discussions and my arguments could be made with a higher degree of accuracy.

    But why should I bother engaging Christians as an atheist? Surely I should keep to myself? Belief (or non-belief) is an individual thing, right? Well, I do learn more about others and in the process I also teach others. Education I think is a beautiful thing. Okay, that doesn’t necessarily mean debate anybody at any given time. It doesn’t mean I tear into my Catholic grandmother every time I visit (in fact, I’ve never brought up religion to her). I think there’s always a time and place and place, for example, the blogosphere is appropriate, because it’s a hot bed of opinions, the very embodiment of free expression, assuming it’s a blog that allows people to freely express themselves, some bloggers rather stick their fingers in their ear and prevent people from commenting (my opinion counts, but not yours). The other reason is the effects of Christianity on society, I think Christians tend to be oblivious to it and when it is challenged, they often go on the defence, suggest we’re being ignorant, intolerant and even trying to deny them their right to freedom of religion, without first trying to understand. That in itself is incredibly frustrating. In fact, on ‘angry’ atheists, there’s a fantastic blog post here. http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2007/10/atheists-and-an.html She states it a lot better than many of us probably could, though (as she says herself) she hasn’t covered everything.
    If you wish to understand many of the atheists out there who appear angry, it is worth reading that blog post, in fact all of it. It’s a bit long, but I think it reflects how many feel with great detail and worth it. Ideally I’d like to see a world where we all get along where people believe whatever they wish without it hurting anybody, without people being ignorant of each other. I think it would be unfair (and completely unethical) to force religion out, I am a big supporter of freedom of thought/belief/expression. If it did die I wouldn’t miss it because I think humanity can do fine without it, even if it may be special for an individual. Obviously many religious would disagree, particularly those who openly proselytise looking to ‘save’ the damned, but then they believe their religion is a direct connection to a deity, which makes it significant through their eyes. But that’s my view anyway.

    That’s my two cents.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Thank you for your comment. It is my view that many atheists are former members of Protestant sects, and many of their criticisms of the belief systems of their former religions are justified. I also understand why they are angry. I was brought up in just such a narrow, fundamentalist Protestant sect and so I am sympathetic. However, when they come to a Catholic blog they should take time to understand Catholicism. It is very different from Protestantism. Likewise, Christians should stop to consider why people are atheists and consider their objections.

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

    No reply button after certain number of replies?

    Oregon Catholic said on July 24, 2012 at 10:43 pm:
    “Re: uncaused cause is a well-known philosophical argument. I suggest you google it for a better explanation than I could give you here.”

    I know what the term “uncaused cause” as philosophical argument is. I thought maybe you had some new perspective or way of looking at it. And, of course, “uncaused cause” applies to the concept of god in addition to theoretical physics.

    “Because that was God’s plan for how He wished to make himself known. As to why He chose that plan, you’ll have to ask Him.”

    How convenient for Christians. How do you know he didn’t reveal himself to other cultures using references that they understand? The Egyptian Sun God; American Indian Great Spirit; Jupiter, Zeus, the list goes on and on, over 2,600 gods in recorded history… Simple cultural bias and arrogance explains the point of view of almost any religion.

    • Douglas Fo

      Particularly the view point of any professional mendicant that derives their livelyhood from it.

  • http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com Alice C. Linsley

    Romans 1:20 makes it clear that God DID reveal Himself to all cultures in the fixed binary order of creation. So none have an excuse. http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2012/04/levi-strauss-and-derrida-on-binary.html

    The Egyptian God was Ra whose emblem was the Sun. He was the father of Horus who Hathor-Meri conceived when the Sun overshadowed her. Her totem was the cow and the temple at Karnak shows her holding her son in a stable. The ancient Egyptians celebrated Horus’ rising to life on the third day by sowing grain in the fields. When His disciples questioned Him about going to Jerusalem, Jesus answered that unless a seed fall into the ground and die it cannot give life. Here He claims to be the fulfillment of the first divine promise (Gen. 3:15) that the Woman would bring forth the Seed who would crush the serpent’s head and restore Paradise. This is the origin of Messianic expectation.

    Christians didn’t invent the Faith. It is a received tradition of great antiquity preserved by Abraham’s ancestors and passed to his descendants.

    • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

      Perhaps if Romans 1:20 had been written before all the other gods came about, it would be informative; however, like all Monday morning quarterbacks, it’s a day late, a shekel short and 100% hindsight. Mythical stories of a virgin birth were ancient history long before Jesus came along and created a new, but not-so-new, myth.

      The “none have an excuse” excuse for proclaiming the superiority of Christianity over all other beliefs is the exact same stance my right-wing fundamentalist preacher nephew uses. Believe it or not, there are people in this world who have not heard of Jesus Christ, yet so many are willing to say those isolated people are to be condemned to an eternity in Hell, while a child raper/murderer can make a heartfelt conversion while strapped to the gurney awaiting the lethal injection, and be off to Heaven.

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

    Fr. Dwight — I do appreciate the civility of this forum, and you’re openness in engaging us atheists, however, I haven’t come across what you call “atheists trolls” in this thread. Perhaps you could direct us towards those threads that have trolls (understanding that a “troll” merely lurks, waiting for just the right moment to try and spring their word trap, and has no interest in honest debate). For some of the clearest insights into atheism I suggest visiting Austin Cline’s Agnosticism / Atheism forum: http://atheism.about.com

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      They were there some time ago in some of my posts about atheism and others about the historicity of the gospels. They’ve gone back under their bridge now. Have a good day!


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